We don’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly.
Plants are one of my favorite gifts to receive and high on the “treatchaself” list. They give you oxygen, are something to care for and watch grow, expedite healing, balance out the invisible chaos of electronics that might be wiggin’ you out, create a calming atmosphere, and look nice.
Swap: Instead of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly, give or buy a potted plant.
Cut flowers usually wilt and stink within a week or so, so people toss them into the compost or, more likely, the trash. (The issue with the latter is that organic compost creates methane gas, which is bad for our environment.) While flower bouquets are a beautiful art form to look at and make recipients feel special, actively growing plants continue to flower- the gift that keeps on giving. Cut flowers are also 1) typically wrapped in plastic and 2) super expensive. For the same investment you can get a plant that keeps on keepin’ on long after the celebratory event has passed. For Valentine’s Day this year, Rick got me a big, bouncy peace lily, and this week it gave us a fresh white bloom. I say “us,” but I’d bet Rick hasn’t noticed it, so… this week it gave me a fresh white bloom!
I always wonder about quality of air and the fact that so many humans spend so much time indoors. (Me! I’m one of those people.) I wonder how our lungs are effected by all those dust motes floating around, undetected mold, gas/carbon monoxide, and things like candle smoke (another example of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly we often give/buy). Plants clean the air in the home, give us fresh oxygen, and flourish with the carbon dioxide we emit. Mutually beneficial, we pair well together.
Plants give you something to nurture and care for.
I have another peace lily, my first, obtained along with a white bird of paradise from a nursery in D.C. when Rick and I lived there. The same day Rick got a tiny cactus he named Spike. He’s very proud of Spike when he remembers he has Spike.
This may sound really sad, and usually when things are really sad they end up being funny to me, and I find this funny, but when I was in D.C. I missed the family golden retrievers (in NYC) so much that taking care of plants was a weak but important consolation. I’d tug the massive bird of paradise outside to get some big sunlight just like you’d take a dog out. I remember one time Rick came home and I grinned and fanned my arm out to present the plant on our little patio. “Look who’s having a nice time outside!” (Somebody get this girl a dog…) HA! Rick appeased me with a “Wow! I can tell it’s having a great time out there.”
I also grew mint, basil, rosemary, and cilantro and what I learned was that there’s never enough cilantro, because I eat it too fast, and that mint does not know how to share and is always inviting itself over to other plants’ houses. If you plant mint with another herb, the mint will put its roommate in a choke hold and commit MURDER. The pot will be a mint-only pot soon. And then, my mint plant had the audacity to grow down to the ground, pretending to be minding its own business, and then pop up on the side of the other herbs’ pot! Anyway, mint needs to be in the plant equivalent of the isolation cabin from The Parent Trap (1998).
Plants nurture you back.
Being able to eat what you grow is immensely satisfying. When I have a yard of my own, I plan to grow lots of food, or at least attempt to. It feeds me physically but also my soul to care for something and watch it flourish. In the meantime, though, I can only grow things indoors and with limited northern exposure. Sadly, my herbs did not make the move back to NYC. But my original peace lily and bird of paradise and Rick’s cactus he forgets about have lived three places and have continued to grow. Well, I have no idea if Spike is growing or even okay. I think he’s okay. I also got an aloe plant at a street fair for $5 and have used it on inflamed skin and sunburns.
Okay, now for something potentially psychosomatic that I believe in: plants countering the invisible chaos of wifi, cellular waves, and electronics in general. Apparently, plants cancel the positive ions that come from electronics, something that apparently makes people wiggy, charged up, and anxious. I’ve heard of a parent requesting a preschool remove the wifi connection due to it causing their child anxiety, and while I’m not ready to go that far, I believe that level of sensitivity to be true for some. For instance, fluorescent lights give me anxiety. The fact the light always moves drives me crazy and makes me feel like I’m about to have a seizure at any moment. (I’m sooo fun at parties.) When fluorescent lights are reflecting off a linoleum floor it’s even worse. My disturbing high school chemistry lab comes to mind. With cell service and wifi there is so much moving through the air, it kinda makes sense to me that something organic would balance it, even if just in the vein of feng shui. Apparently plants, especially their roots and soil, absorb that chaotic energy.
Plants are inherently healing.
I’ve always had a feeling about physical spaces that inform my inner peace, and plants help calm a room… and me. I found a study on the National Library of Medicine website that finds plants enhance healing:
Findings of this study confirmed the therapeutic value of plants in the hospital environment as a noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients. Health care professionals and hospital administrators need to consider the use of plants and flowers to enhance healing environments for patients.[Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery]
It’s such a bummer to enter someone’s space with nary a plant in sight. Make a small plant your next housewarming or host gift! Here’s a place to start:
Next on my list are a couple of snake plants. My birthday’s on Saturday- maybe Rick’s reading this. Rick, are you there? Anywho.
One small consumption change for you, one small improvement for our environment. What kind of nontoxic, environmentally-friendly treats do you like to give or buy?
*Lauren Singer is an environmentalist who does not generate any waste(!). You can shop her store, Package Free, online or at the brick and mortar store in Brooklyn post-pandemic. Read more about Lauren here, and watch her Ted Talk here– she’s inspiring.
Once a month I share a sustainability tip or an easy swap in consumption routine to better care for the planet. Environmentally conscious change doesn’t always have to be expensive, laborious, or extremely time-consuming.
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Last, I leave you with this nice picture of a golden retriever I found.